18 Oct 2022 3:15 AM GMT
Displeased with the manner in which the incumbent DGP, Nagaland has been recommended for empanelled by Nagaland Government, the Supreme Court, on Monday, directed the State of Nagaland to send a fresh list of empanelled officers for appointment to the post of Director General of Police (DGP) Nagaland to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) by 31.10.2022. It further directed the UPSC...
Displeased with the manner in which the incumbent DGP, Nagaland has been recommended for empanelled by Nagaland Government, the Supreme Court, on Monday, directed the State of Nagaland to send a fresh list of empanelled officers for appointment to the post of Director General of Police (DGP) Nagaland to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) by 31.10.2022. It further directed the UPSC to take a decision on the appointment by 30.11.2022.
"In view of the communication issued by UPSC on 01.04.2022, the State of Nagaland shall immediately send a list of empanelled officers for appointment to the post of DGP, Nagaland. The list of eligible officers shall be drawn up in accordance with law after duly bearing in mind the deficiencies (already) pointed out by UPSC in communication dated 01.04.2022. The list of eligible officers who are empanelled shall be communicated to UPSC no later than 31.10.2022. The UPSC shall take decision thereon on or before 30.11.2022."
A Bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Hima Kolhi was hearing an application in Prakash Singh v. Union of India, wherein the applicant (Nagaland Law Students' Federation) assailed the appointment and service extension of the incumbent DGP, Mr. T.J. Longkumer which is argued to be on the teeth of the mandate in Prakash Singh (supra).
On 23.03.2022, the Government of Nagaland had communicated a panel of three names for appointment to the post of DGP, Nagaland to the UPSC, as the incumbent DGP was to superannuate on 31.08.2022. By way of a communication dated 01.04.2022, UPSC pointed out some deficiencies in the State Government's recommendation. The most crucial one being the inclusion of the name of Mr. Longkumer in the empanelment list. UPSC clarified that since the vacancy arises because of the superannuation of Mr Longkumar, his name has to be deleted from the eligibility list. On 31.08.2022, Ministry of Home Affairs, Union Government granted extension of service and extension of inter-cadre deputation of tenure of Mr. Longkumer from Chhattisgarh cadre to Nagaland cadre for 6 months from the date of his superannuation on 31.08.2022. While dictating the order, the Bench took note of the fact that the copy of the letter of communication sent by UPSC on 01.04.2022 was marked to the MHA.
On Monday, Advocate, Ms. Kaveeta Wadia appearing on behalf of the applicant apprised the Bench that -
"The member of the (Police Establishment) Board is Mr. Longkumer himself. He decides the names of the panel, including his name. He is not from Nagaland cadre."
On 04.02.2022 in a meeting of the Police Establishment Board of Nagaland where the Chief Secretary of the State was the Chairperson, three senior most IPS officers were recommended for empanelment to UPSC for appointment of DGP. Rivetingly, as Ms. Wadia pointed out, the incumbent DGP was a member of the Board, though his name was being considered for empanelment and he was eventually empanelled.
Considering Mr. Wadia's submission and on perusal of the documents on record, the Bench noted -
"From the record it appears that the officer participated in a meeting that directly pertained to his empanelment as DGP and for conferment of apex scale."
While arguing the application, Ms. Wadia had emphasised that the incumbent DGP was granted extension to continue as the DGP, Nagaland for another 6 months after his superannuation in August, 2022, when he was not even eligible to be appointed to the post of DGP in the first place.
"MHA extended this tenure for 6 months after superannuation. This gentleman is continuing in a post in which he could not have been appointed."
Elaborating on the same, she submitted that Mr. Longkumer, who belonged to the Chhattisgarh cadre of 1991, was appointed as DGP, Nagaland as the State of Nagaland had made a statement before the Apex Court that, there were no officers in the Nagaland cadre, at that point in time, who had 30 years of service (necessary qualification as set out by UPSC). Ms. Wadia asserted that on the date of appointment in 2018, Mr. Longkumer had not completed the requisite 30 years, but was still appointed as DGP, Nagaland.
"A contempt petition was moved when he was appointed, then the Court was informed that since no one in Nagaland cadre had 30 years of experience, this gentleman was appointed. When this gentleman himself did not have 30 years."
She added -
"I can understand that the post of DGP cannot lie vacant, but continuation of this gentleman is nothing less than subversion of rule of law."
Advocate, Mr. Prashant Bhushan apprised the Bench that the objective of the directions issued in Prakash Singh was that some independence ought to be given to the DGPs so that they do not function as the instrumentality of the Government. According to him the relevance of fixing the tenure to 2 years for the post of DGP, irrespective of superannuation was to ensure such independence. He argued that repeated extension dilutes the purpose of the directions manifold. Mr. Bhushan beseeched the Bench to take up the main matter and the contempt petitions therein at the earliest.
Justice Chandrachud asked a pointed question to the State Counsel, "On the date when you (State) made the statement, Mr. Longkumar, did he have 30 years?"
The Counsel for State sought some time to respond to the query, "We will confirm that."
Justice Chandrachud asked, "Which is the year of his cadre? When was he appointed as DGP Nagaland."
Ms. Wadia restated that Mr. Longkumer was from 1991 cadre and was appointed as DGP, Nagaland in June, 2018.
The Judge further enquired, "In 2018, did he have 30 years service?"
The State Counsel responded saying, "He was the senior most IPS officer."
Justice Chandrachud reckoned -
"If you tell this court that you have to appoint him because other officers in the State do not have 30 years…did you tell the court that we have got somebody who also does not have 30 years? Is this not breach of faith?"
Considering the gravity of the issue, he added -
"We have to issue notice to the Chief Secretary of State and bring him here."
Justice Kohli asked the State Counsel, "Why did you get someone from outside Nagaland and give an impression to the Court he has 30 years of service?"
The Counsel responded that in the State's reply the tenure of service of Mr. Longkumer was mentioned.
Perplexed that the incumbent DGP was present at the meeting of the Police Establishment Board, as a member, which decided his own empanelment, Justice Chandrachud enquired -
"Mr. Longkumer who is the DGP is a member of the Police Establishment Board. He participates in the meeting by recommending himself as a part of the panel."
The State Counsel responded, "As per Prakash Singh DGP has to be there. Allow me to put a short reply on record."
Irked by the manner in which the empanelment was made, Justice Chandrachud stated -
"You want to set your house in order, you do that, otherwise you are inviting trouble from this court. You tell the Chief Secretary that we have taken a dim view of the man participating in the meeting of PEB when he is himself empanelled."
As the State Counsel informed the Bench that Nagaland Government has taken a decision to approach the UPSC again in November to constitute a new panel, Justice Chandrachud orally told him, "This week you approach the UPSC."
[Case Title: Prakash Singh & Ors v UOI W.P.(C) No. 310/1996]
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